America: Now and Here

Where is America?  Kansas City blushes and squirms at all the attention.  We hesitate to answer anything, in our modesty, but they have asked: what is America?  And the collective answer, woven from artists both local and far-flung, is as varied as America demands.  The whole of the Leedy-Volkos gallery, and spaces across the street, are full of America: Now and Here.  Where do you want to go first?  I’d suggest down, down, down.  The basement held my favorites.  Perhaps they’re safer down there, the things I’d prefer because they’re most like me– impish, hidden, flashy, lanky.

I loved Tony Oursler’s “The Rally,” a big five dollar bill with squares cut out to show a real left ear, eye, and mouth for Lincoln.  A few other pieces reference the almighty dollar, but this was my favorite.  The bill shows a human, a human whose foibles and glories we pass down as tradition.  He had real features, though, swarthy and emblooded.  We just never look at them.  We hand the paper around, trading stuff, blindly.  Why do we do that?  How weird is to have faces on money?

There’s also Laurie Anderson’s “From The Air.”  Digression: It reminded me of the Haunted Mansion at Disney World.  There’s a tiny woman installed above the exit of the Haunted Mansion.  She’s somehow animated, like her face is a movie, and her body isn’t, maybe, and it’s old technology, but I’ve never been able to figure it out.  I love her. 

Anderson’s piece looks like “The Little Lady,” sort of.  A tiny woman in a chair, chatting about her dog, who is sitting in the chair next to her.  There’s something about tiny people that sucks you in.  They’re like us, not intimidating, safe in scale, and also unbelievable.  Anderson’s tiny woman is not a puppet, or a doll, or a movie, exactly, but you sure want to watch her like she’s all of the above.  Recommended: crouching to her level, especially if you’re wearing heels.  (Anderson’s musical piece, which you can listen to aboveground on an iPad, is equally touching, although much more serious.  Several of the musical pieces on the iPads were not loaded at presstime. No Philip Glass!  I mourned.)

The other great piece down there is Dylan Mortimer’s “God Hooks My Ass Up.”  In silvers and Christmas lights and green glee, it looks part Gutenberg, part “Price is Right,” and part St. Patrick’s Day.  Americans believe, to their core, that God hooks their asses up, although I didn’t realize it until I was looking at the piece, and laughing to snorting.  (Irish angle courtesy of docent who cheerfully approached my snorting.)

Upstairs, still at Leedy Volkos, there are a few outstanding things to see.  Jean Pagliuso photographed nine chickens in black and white, framed them something lovely, and they are “Poultry Suite.”  Gorgeous chickens, reminding me of my uncle who raises them and loves them, and how pretty chickens are.  I didn’t know.

Tom Friedman’s “The Rally” uses color and glitter to create the white space around the fabulous.  Isn’t the blankness more fabulous?  Isn’t it sparkle when they leave?  Doesn’t fame make for amazing exits and auras?  Doesn’t memory make that happen?  Memory often emblazons my white space, and leaves the characters, and actual events, in the dark.

Across the street, at the Third Eye Gallery, a photograph of a landscape holds a deep, negative space pit in the middle.  Sally Gall photographed a peaceful scene and then left blackness as its foil.  Why is blackness there?  Is emptiness necessary for entry?  Do safe landscapes admit terrible gaps?  Not usually, but here, yes.

A map and a simple pinkish cross, in two slightly off colors, is Julian Schnabel’s contribution, and I wondered immediately, how did he find that map?  How did he know it would be so right for that composition?  Is this all luck, or angels poking with suggestions?  Somehow two strokes of paint on a found map is gorgeous.

Go, see, enjoy.  It’s hard for midwesterners to bask in anything.  We are too modest.  But just for a bit: bask, bask, friends.  There’s plenty aglow.

America: Now and Here has an extensive schedule of events, found here: http://americanowandhere.org/

Painting pictured is mine, cause, you know, I don’t own any of the images I discussed.  Go look at them yourself.

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